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Ditch the Box: Easy Spanish Rice

If, like me, you've been making quick Spanish rice "out of a box" to round out your Mexican/Spanish meals for all these years, you'll be happy to know (or, I'm assuming you will if you're bothering to read this blog) that I have cracked the code.  I have done a little reading and a little experimenting and have deduced that making your own perfectly marvelous Spanish rice from scratch is really no big deal.  I have also confirmed, as I long suspected, that the convenience of boxed Spanish rice is a scam.    From this hypothesis I will further theorize that ALL flavored boxed rices are no more efficient or "easy" than their from-scratch predecessors, but I will have to prove that theory in future experiments.  For now, let's turn to Exhibit A.

Rice A Roni Spanish Rice Ingredients
This stuff has been a standard in my household for years.  No longer.  You see, what I want out of food is something that tastes good, is nutritious, and is as natural and simple as possible.  And I mean really natural, not what our food industry calls 'all natural.'  How natural is it if it's been stripped of its nutrients, then a small handful of isolated nutrients are added back in to give us the bare minimum?  How natural is it if the flavor has to be enhanced with MSG and there are things in the ingredient list you've never heard of and couldn't guess what plant or animal they came from, and it's not some exotic foreign food.  It's something they came up with in a lab.  As Michael Pollan says, "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food."

To add to the list of complaints, if you click on the caption under the Rice A Roni image up there, you'll see that WHEAT is listed as the second ingredient on the label (and a soy product is just a little further down).  Rice, once one of the most allergy-friendly grains on the planet, the stuff that has sustained millions across the decades, has now invaded our grocery shelves in the form of little boxes and bags (the flavor packet is right in the box, so convenient for the busy working home maker) laced with more allergens and lab-invented ingredients than was ever necessary to make a good, flavorful pot of rice.  For some of us, this stuff will kill you.  Allergic to wheat and/or soy?  Stay well away from boxed flavored rice.

And now the good news, my personal salvation: perfectly good boxless Spanish rice.

Spanish Rice


2 c. long grain brown rice
Dollop of  Olive Oil (1 or 2 Tbsp.)
1 can (14.5 oz or thereabouts) diced tomatoes
1 can (14.5 oz or thereabouts) diced tomatoes and green chilis
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (totally optional, Terri)
1 1/2 - 2 cups broth (chicken, veggie, turkey, whateva')


Chop your onion however you like it, big chunks or little disintegrating bits or somewhere in between (I'm not going to tell you how to run your kitchen).  Heat up your dollop of olive oil in a medium-sized pot and cook the onion until it's nearly translucent (or you can go for full caramelization, your choice).  Add the minced garlic in the last few minutes, since garlic cooks very fast.  At the same time as the garlic, add the rice and stir constantly over medium heat until some of the rice starts to brown slightly.

Add the tomatoes, tomatoes and chilis, any spices if you're going to (see below) and broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover, letting it simmer for 35 - 45 minutes, depending on your stove and your rice.  Start checking it at about 30 minutes.  If the liquid isn't all absorbed, let it keep going.  If, at around 40 minutes the rice has absorbed all its liquid but it's still a touch underdone, add a 1/4 c. liquid, put the lid back on, and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Fluff the finished rice with a fork.  Eat it with something yummy and Mexican.  And know that you have thwarted The Man by making something good from scratch... and it was easy.  :)

*That's the basics.  Feel free to spice it up from there, if you wish.  I've seen recipes that call for a tsp. or so of oregano, or a few dashes of cumin, or even some fresh cilantro thrown in at the end.  Go wild.  You'll notice that my amounts on the tomatoes are approximate.  I understand that many of our wonderfully resourceful readers might be using their own canned tomatoes (not store bought).  If that's you, I commend you, and understand that your cans are probably not exactly a store-standard 14.5 oz.  Use your best judgment.  If you want to use fresh tomatoes, use 2 if they're very large, and maybe 3 or 4 if they're kinda' small (eyeball it).  Do not strain your 'maters.  You want all that juice in your rice (it will make up part of your liquid), and a few tomato seeds never hurt anyone (honestly, I've done it with whole tomatoes and never even noticed the seeds).  Then, of course, you'll have to add your chilis (even if they're mild chilis, or even bell peppers - you need it for depth of flavor).  One or two of those little cans of green chilis will do the trick.  But, if you're pulling all this produce out of the garden, you probably already know what kind of peppers you want to use, and again, I'm not one to stop you.  You can make it as hot or mild as you wish.  This is your show.

Go forth and cook food.

~ Angela


Homemade Gluten Free Vegan Noodles

When I first found out that our family was going gluten free, the recipe that I nearly cried at losing was my home made chicken noodle soup.  I could not figure out how to have gluten free noodles that tasted like homemade.  I did not want rice noodles, and I am allergic to quinoa--so those are out.  Plus, I am allergic to eggs...so it decent noodles for a hearty chicken soup seemed to be getting further and further out of my grasp.  In desperation, I started experimenting.  (Necessity being the mother of invention and all that...)

What I came up with is somehow al dente yet tender.  It can be rolled a bit thicker and used, dumpling like, in a hearty soup, but can also be rolled paper thin.  My kids adore these noodles, and I simply do not make my chicken noodle soup with any other noodle.

Before I go any further, I have to admit...these are starch based.  In order to get the texture I wanted this was what worked.  No apologies.

Also, I am posting this (temporarily) without a photo.  I will be making my chicken noodle soup soon, so I will post the photo (and the recipe for the soup) then.

Gluten Free and Vegan Noodles

1/2 c. tapioca starch
1/2 c. cornstarch
3 tbs. potato starch
1 1/2 tbs. xanthan gum (yes, tablespoons...noodles have to be able to bend a lot!)
4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer (combine this with 6 tbs. very warm water, whisk until frothy, and set aside)
1 1/2 tbs. vegetable oil
  1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Take the the Ener-G egg replacer and water mixture and add the vegetable oil, then add to the dry ingredients.
  3. Work the dough into a ball and knead it a LOT.  No, seriously...a lot.  It will take a minute or two for the starches to combine and become easier to work with.  (If the mixture does not combine well after a few minutes of kneading, you can add a tsp. or two of warm water.)
At this point, you can either put the dough in a large plastic zippy bag in the fridge and let it set up for a few hours before rolling and cutting into noodles.  Or, if you are like me, there is no time.  In that case continue to...

     4.  Coat your rolling surface with potato starch and roll to desired thickness.

(Fair warning, they do expand a bit in thickness when they cook, so roll them a bit thinner than you want them to end up.)  Also, I often use the pizza cutter to cut the noodles.  Works great! 

The noodles cook in about ten minutes in boiling water (or just throw them right into your chicken noodle soup recipe)! 

I have used these noodles in my homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Chicken Alfredo with great success.  (Although, with the chicken allergy, these are now actually Turkey Noodle Soup and Turkey Alfredo at my house...I am just too lazy to train myself to call it something else after 39 years.  I'm just happy that I actually got around to modifying the recipe.  I really missed noodles!)


Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes on a Crisp (Almost) Autumn Day

Around our parts, the past weekend had the decided feel of Autumn!!!  I responded to the brisk breeze with the need to make something warm and spicy.  In the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to publicly declare my love of pumpkin.  I adore pumpkin.  So, what better to kick of this glorious change in weather than with PUMPKIN PANCAKES!? 

I modified my old recipe to make it Gluten Free and Vegan, and let me tell you...you won't miss anything.  It is really amazing.  And, yes, I confess, I really DID eat the first pancake folded in half, dripping with syrup, while I stood over the kitchen sink.

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes
Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

3/4 c. sweet sorghum flour
1/2 c. potato flour (NOT potato starch)
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. teff flour
1/4 c. oat flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 tbs. ground flax seed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer, mixed with 6 tbs. warm water (mix well before adding)
2 tbs. oil
1 c. + 2 tbs. almond milk
2/3 c. canned pumpkin

Combine the Ener-G Egg Replacer and warm water, set aside.  In a large bowl, combine all the "dry" ingredients and mix together.  Add pumpkin, almond milk, and egg replacer.  Pour mixture into approx. 4-inch rounds on hot griddle.  Flip when the surface starts to bubble.

This will make about 12 four inch pancakes.  I normally double the recipe and have a few left over that I can refrigerate and then microwave the next day for a quick "school day breakfast."  The cooked pancakes keep just fine for about 6-7 days in the refrigerator.  For longer storage, store in zippy bags in the freezer.

I have been known to make up several batches on a weekend just so I can make sure to have some on hand during the week.

Also, my daughter has used these as the base for several sweet "snacks," topping them with Nutella, pumpkin butter, and honey butter.  Seriously, I have no idea where she gets these ideas.  Right...moving on.

My next fall inspired recipe will be Gluten Free Vegan Molasses Cookies.  Did I mention I love Autumn?


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